Some anti-Catholics claim that “a pope” or “the Catholic Church” created a forged document known as The Donation of Constantine to bolster their authority and wield their power of other religions. But after reviewing the facts, one will see that this claim is untenable and erroneous.

While there are all sorts of claims and conspiracy theories made by anti-Catholics, we start with a few simple questions. Who wrote the so-called Donation of Constantine? What was their name? When did they write it? How long did it take them to complete it?

The truth is that nobody knows. No scholar or historian knows exactly who wrote it or when. The problem grows when one realizes that the document itself is written in two parts, and some scholars hold that these sections were penned at different times.

Some offer conjectures that The Donation was devised in the East by a Greek in schism. Of note, the Donation of Constantine is found in Greek canonical collections. Others say that it was forged in Rome. Still others posit the Frankish domain as its port of origin.

Most scholars hold that the document in question is was written sometime within the 8th or 9th century. So, another problem arises for conspiracy theorists here. If it was in fact written by a Pope for some nefarious reason, surely it would have been used extensively by popes and the Catholic Church from the 9th century onward. However, it isn’t. No pope used or even mentioned this document until 1054 A.D. when speaking to Michael Crularius. This is over a century and a half later than when scholars say it was composed. Whereas we know for certain that it was used in Frankish and Greek canons long before Rome.

Many scholars believe that the Frankish realm is where it originated. The writers of this forgery specifically mention that they are trying to prove to the Franks the “transfer of the imperial title at the coronation of Charlemagne in 800. The forgery was, therefore, important mainly for the Frankish Empire.”

To add to this, the oldest manuscripts we have available are found in the Empire of the Franks, not Rome. In addition, it was Frankish writers who were the first to quote the document and utilize it extensively – not Rome and not any pope. That is telling.

This document was never utilized anywhere in Rome or by any of the Roman Church in general for almost 2 centuries, not even at times when there were major conflicts; for example, between Pope Nicholas I and Constantinople. Surely, they could have wielded this forgery to their advantage had they been aware of it. But they didn’t.

So, after centuries of some unknown people, perhaps the Franks, using it for some political advantage, it began to slowly spread and to gain acceptance. Nobody knew it was a forgery in Rome or elsewhere at this time. Even anti-Catholic adversaries accepted its authenticity and attempted to debunk it on its own merits.

It’s telling that nobody in or out of the church knew it was a forgery until the 15th century! If it was first created by the Pope or by Roman church authorities, we would not find it first in other book collections outside of Rome.

Both Catholics and non-Catholics were deceived. Neither denied it’s validity, and if nobody knew that it was a forgery until the 15th century, including Catholics, then how could one purport that the Pope invented it for some sinister plot?

The bottom line is that the Pope didn’t invent the Donation of Constantine to substantiate his claims as some maintain, and there is no good evidence of that whatsoever. There are many assertions and assumptions of ill intent, evil plots, world dominance, and other conspiracy theories, but none of them can be proven.

Lastly, the pope does not need a document of this kind to validate his authority. The Pope received the highest authority on earth when Peter alone received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. While the papacy deals in spiritual authority and not temporal authority, the pope still has more authority than kings and has historically tried to steer them in the right direction while make sure the purity of the faith was kept.

To see more on the keys and just how much authority the pope has, see our video here on the Pope being the Vicar of Christ.